How does Spain will attract Chinese tourist ?

The Chinese tourist market is attracting a lot of investors these days. Between 2000 and 2012, it has been multiplied by 8 and they are now the first source of tourist travelling overseas in the world. Numbers are impressive ! Reaching 97 million of them have been visiting some places in 2013 and spent over €75.5 billion in 2012. In 2020, more than 200 million are being expected and their expenditures too.

The most preferred destination is Europe

If New Zealand and Australia are starting to attract Chinese tourist, Europe stay a basic and mandatory destination for them. After all it is the most visited continent in the World. France, Italy and recently U.K. are the main European destinations but Spain is not ready to give up and also have a few beauty of its own.

Nevertheless, since the 2008 crisis and all the austerity measures, cross-border travel between European countries has decreased steering countries with difficulties such as Spain or Greece to seek outside of their traditional British, Dutch and German source markets for income. In 2013, the demand for cross-border travel rose of only 2% compared to 7% in Asia.

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A hard competition for Spain

It is difficult for Spain to compete with its neighbour (France and Italy) concerning luxury item and perfume but Acotex, the Spanish Business Association of Textile Trade, still showed that Chinese tourists in Spain spend most their money on Spanish fashion clothes. In 2012, one Chinese tourist spends generally €834 followed by Japanese with €623 and it is usually in Barcelona (44%) and Madrid (31%) that items were bought.

Tourist expenditures accounts for 11% of Spain’s Gross Domestic Product. In 2012, 57.7 million visited the country and a quarter of them were flying from London. However, British people are not getting any richer so Spain decided to target Chinese visitors. If only 177,100 of them visited in 2012, the country will do anything to reach the million per year by 2020. To do so, Spain, through a specific agenda called the China Tourism Plan, is willing to adapt dishes to Chinese taste, introduce more Chinese tour guides, set up Chinese channel in hotels and even try to overcome the language barrier. It seems like Spain is decided to seduce Chinese tourist after all.

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Easier said than done…

The Spanish Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce will try to ensure no one from the tourism chain is spared. From taxi drivers to tour guides and even luxury hotel owners to know Chinese travel wishes and customs. Also, during the international conference on Asian tourism in Barcelona, solutions have been given to increase the number of Chinese tourist in the country. Specialist companies provided advice and other services relating to hospitality, catering and travel.

More over, Chinese mainland and Hong Kong investors have been contacted to open new hotel, travel companies or restaurant in Spain which is supposed to reassure Chinese on the cultural side. The country want to make them feel comfortable. For example, it has already make exceptions on some bullfights by not killing the animal at the end of the game to appease Chinese tourists who do not like blood.

The country still need to make some efforts if they want to attract more tourist though. A tour company, Marly Camino, has seen an impressive increase of Asian tourist (from Singapore and Philippines mainly) interested in the high-end walking packages on the Way of Saint James (in the North of Spain) but there is only one official Chinese speaking tour guide in the region. The solution for Spanish travel agencies will be to partnership with Chinese ones to crack the market.

Spain beaches are worthy competitors to other holidays havens

Spain’s beaches are very popular in Europe and the word has been spread all the way to Asia. If Maldives are still on the top 5 favourites Chinese destination, the beautiful beach resorts of Spain are starting to win interest. Nevertheless, the Mediterranean sea does not benefit from the same richness as the Indian Ocean. Therefore, the Spanish island needs to organise hopping tour, night fishing and snorkelling.

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A specific tourism plan for Chinese

The idea is to adapt strategies to make Spain a worthy destination. For that the Spanish government already opened tourism offices in Beijing and Guangzhou and, thanks to the Approved Destination Status agreement signed between China and the EU in 2004 and the Schengen agreement, Spain already has a facilitated granting visa especially through Chinese tour group.

They will also include a new edition of Spanish guide books in Mandarin, a change in Spain’s meal times to accommodate Chinese travellers and a programme to train bilingual tour guides. A advertising campaign will be launch in China to promote the better frequency of direct flights between the two countries. A clever investment when we know how much money Chinese are ready to spend on shopping and cultural visits when they are abroad.

At the moment, thanks to Spain winning in the last World Cup and the success of it Pavilion at Shanghai Universal Exhibition in 2010, the country is ranked 5th in the European Union (behind Germany, Britain, France and Italy). Thanks to the history, the culture, the art and the architecture that Spain have, it makes it a perfect destination for Chinese that are « tourists » and not « holiday makers ».

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